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Greater Moravian Empire

Greater Moravian Empire — an early medieval West Slavic state based along the Morava River in what is the present-day eastern Czech Republic and western Slovakia. Following the disintegration of the Avar Kaganate in the early ninth century a political vacuum opened up along the middle Danube River and the eastern fringes of the Frankish Empire. This vacuum was in large part filled by a Moravian state founded by the West Slavic leader Mojmir (r. 833-836). From its core in Moravia and western Slovakia the state’s political influence rapidly expanded during the ninth century, so that during the reign of prince Svatopluk (870-894) it came to control much of Pannonia (the former center of Avar rule) toward the south and Bohemia and Lusatia in the northwest, as well as what is present-day southern Poland and eastern Slovakia, including part of Subcarpathian Rus’. This larger entity, which came to be known as the Greater Moravian Empire, was destroyed by Magyar tribes at the outset of the tenth century.

The cultural significance of Greater Moravia was to last long after the state ceased to exist. This is largely due to the fact that the second of Moravia’s rulers, Rastislav (846-869), had invited in 862-863 the Byzantine missionaries *Constantine/Cyril and Methodius to convert his people to Christianity and provide them with a written language. Subsequent Rusyn historical tradition attributes the establishment of the *Eparchy of Mukachevo either to Constantine/Cyril and Methodius themselves or to their disciples. The establishment of the Byzantine-rite Eparchy of Przemysl in the 890s, which eventually had jurisdiction over Slavs and their Rusyn descendants living in the *Lemko Region, was also connected with the eastward expansion of Greater Moravia. Over a millennium later, when at the close of World War I an entirely new political configuration was being formed in central Europe, ideologists in Czechoslovakia argued that their recently created state marked the resurrection of a political unity among Czechs, Slovaks, and Carpatho-Rusyns that had supposedly existed in Greater Moravia. Such views were acceptable to most Rusyn intellectuals, who claimed as their own the heritage of St. Cyril and Methodius and, by extension, that of Greater Moravia.

Bibliography: Francis Dvornik, Les Slaves, Byzance et Rome au IX siecle (Paris, 1526); Francis Dvornik, The Slavs: Their Early History and Civilization (Boston, 1956); esp. pp. 80-102; Lubomir E. Havlik, Velka Morava a stredoevropsti Slovane (Prague, 1964); Imre Boba, Moravia’s History Reconsidered (The Hague, 1971); Josef Poulik and Bohuslav Chropovsky, eds., Velka Morava a pocatky ceskoslovenske statnosti (Preague, 1985); Martin Eggers, Das “Grossmahrische Reich”: Realitat oder Fiktion? (Stuttgart, 1995); Dusan Trestik, Vznik Velke Moravy (Prague, 2001).

Paul Robert Magocsi

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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